Ever since its original publication in France as La volonté de savoir (The Will to Knowledge), the introductory volume to The History of Sexuality (1978 ) by Michel Foucault has been a source of highly contentious debate. This remarkable book contests established theoretical orthodoxies about social control and repression developed by widely differing schools of Marxist and psychoanalytic thought. Little wonder, then, that Foucault’s writing remains troubling to many intellectuals, since he refuses either to employ the dialectical materialism of Marx or to affirm the psychical realities elaborated by Freud. Neither class struggle nor the unconscious has a fundamental role to play in Foucault’s assiduous critique of eroticism in the West. It is his goal to reveal how analyses of the class struggle and the unconscious, dear to Marxism and Freudianism respectively, are enmeshed in the very systems of power they seek to explain. In Foucault’s work, therefore, the term sexuality provides the focus for indicating why Marx and Freud fail to see the ways in which their
respective works re-impose the cultural laws they are striving to analyse.